‘We’re all struggling’: Richmond restaurants in need of more employees

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 5:22 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) -The hard-hit restaurant industry continues to struggle in the Commonwealth and across the country even as things fully open back up.

Restaurants continue to work to hire employees as they make changes to their daily operations.

“I have to cut my days that I am open. I started being open seven days a week when I started my business. Now, I am open five days a week,” said Reggie Littleton Sr., owner of Family Secrets Restaurant. “You have to improvise and adjust to the changes that are happening. If you don’t make adjustments and stay open with less help, you will be working more with less income coming in.”

Littleton has been in business for 20 years and says speaking to other restaurant staff members and owners, people are getting exhausted trying to work while being short-staffed.

“Owners are getting burned out, senior staff are getting burned out because of the staffing, they don’t have the support,” he explained.

Family Secrets Restaurant is a part of the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience, where conversations continue about ways to get more people to fully staff businesses.

“I am looking for waitresses and waiters, grill cooks - I started with 15 staff, I have five now,” Littleton explained. “There was a staffing issue before the pandemic, but the pandemic made it worse.”

Also, a part of the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience, Ms. Bee’s Juice Bar in Richmond continues to expand but wants to be able to extend its hours, specifically at its Brookland Park location. The owner, Brandi Battle-Brown, says they are in need of more employees to do so.

“As Ms. Bees Juice Bar grows with its second location. We are seeking individuals with great customer service skills and very strong work ethics,” said Battle-Brown. “Ms. Bees would like to extend its hours for the Brookland Park location until 7 p.m. If you are a health-conscious individual and enjoy working in a team environment, Ms. Bees Juice Bar is the place for you Email”

As Ms. Bee's juice bar expands in the City of Richmond, they are looking to expand hours at...
As Ms. Bee's juice bar expands in the City of Richmond, they are looking to expand hours at it's Brookland park location with the help of more employees.(Ms. Bee's Juice Bar)

Littleton says enhanced unemployment benefits are one reason for the shortage of workers.

“I don’t like it, but I understand it. That is the situation we are in, and it is all over the country,” he said. “I am offering to invest in your 401K. If you put in a certain amount, I will match it. As far as my waiters/waitresses, the average wage is $3 an hour, but I am offering $5 an hour [plus tips].”

For a year, Littleton has kept the dining room of Family Secrets closed, only serving take-out through calls into the business as well as DoorDash, GrubHub and Cash and Carry. His restaurant also offers a catering business. They have had to turn down some jobs because they could not staff an event and also keep the restaurant open.

”If I had the staff, I could have been open [for seated dining] months ago,” he said. “I just took [the take out only sign] down today. Hopefully, I can get reservations. If you call and ask ‘are you seating anyone,’ if I have the staff, I will let you eat.”

He is encouraging people to call ahead for dine-in, as they continue to interview for jobs.

“I tell all my customers when you go out to any other restaurants, we all are struggling - have a little patience,” said Littleton.

On June 12, the City Of Richmond, along with partners like the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association and the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, will be holding a community vaccination event and job fair at Southside Plaza. It will provide a walk-up vaccination opportunity with all three vaccinations available. Hiring agents from more than 25 local businesses will also be there.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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